Located at the entrance of Santa Teresa (Carazo) municipality, only 53 kilometers from Managua, the walls are goingup in the first house that the Roncalli-John XXIII Association is building in an alliance with BANPRO. This is the foundation of a program that intends to respond to 46.7% of the population with income that is less than that traditionally required by financial institutions that grant credit.
Benito Antonio Ceneno, 70, has worked all his life in the fields, starting his day early with his morning coffee, Now he shares his mornings and his coffee with 5 collaborators (the master builder, two masons and two helpers) who are building his daughter’s house, Iris Centeno, the first beneficiary of this phase of the Housing First Program.
In the Housing and the Family modality, the Roncalli Association supplies 20% of the value of the home as guaranteed funds, facilitates construction of new housing, legalization and technical assessment services. It is part of the Roncalli-Juan XXIII Association’s mission, that has benefited more than 20,000 persons by building more than 3,700 homes in the last fifteen years.
From the bosom of reality… a response is born
According to data from EMNV (survey of the measurement of standards of living), 22% of the urban population lives in overcrowded conditions and each year 20,000 new families increase this deficit (Nestor Avendano 2011). Facing this reality, the Roncalli Association came up with a solution.
“As a product of the Society of Jesus with its mission to fight for social justice, we asked ourselves where were the marginalized? What were the most significant human needs? Then we identified the problem of access to housing and we became involved in solving this problem with the intention of supporting it in a consistent manner. That’s how we began to search for allies who would allow us to make a sustained contribution to this problem. Then with BANPRO we were able to arrange an opportunity to finance the construction of housing for families who do not have access to bank credit at market rates. These strategies have a purpose. It allows us to facilitate access to the most basic of rights: A roof for every family!” emphasizes Edwin Novoa, Director of the Roncalli-John XXIII Association.
Solidarity is a word that is alive in Housing First and also breathes in the construction of Iris Centeno’s house. While she was working, her father took care of the trees that she planted more than five years ago, when another of his daughters gave this land to Iris. “My daughter Maria Teresa gave it to her and now she has this opportunity which makes me very happy for her. When she told me about this project, it made me very glad and I told her to take the opportunity because she wouldn’t be thinking about reinforcing rods or setbacks of any kind, because the help that they give is complete,” states a very moved Don Benito.
One of this program’s innovations is that the houses are constructed on the family’s own land. It is in answer to the question: What do people already have that signifies a contribution to the solution? Moreover, the team of Roncalli-John XIII is ready to give its time and accompaniment to this process, which also contributes to human development, as they consider having a home is a vehicle for helping people, families thrive.
“We work with people who have made an investment, they have already acquired land. Because we share the notion that everyone can contribute something: labor and solidarity as well as land, everything is much easier,” affirmed Edwin Novoa.
Iris’ plot is forty-eight square varas deep and nine wide (1 sq. vara=0.7 sq. meters). There we find fruit trees: guyaba, nancite, bitter oranges, lemons, plantains, bananas, quequisque, ginger, chayotes, tangerines and passion fruit. Don Benito helps the team of collaborators because he says he doesn’t like being idle. “What I’m doing now is painting, we’ve made friends and they let me do it. I like the fact that they are going so quickly, they are dedicated to working and not to chatting, as well as being very respectful.”
This 58-square-meter house, the Jaspe model, will be finished in approximately a month, since the total building time is 2 months. The construction is reinforced concrete, the walls are finished in stucco on both sides. The model has three rooms: a bathroom, a combination living/dining/kitchen and a laundry area. This one, however, has two rooms instead of three, as the owner decided to use the space of the third room as a kitchen, from there you can see what will be a lovely breakfast nook.
“As you can see, they are finishing the walls, and will be putting up the crown beam which is where they will anchor the vertical reinforcements that will support the walls. It has an infiltration well, 5 meters deep and two in diameter, the sanitary system of the house when you can’t count on the public sewer system,” says Walter Castillo Vega, site engineer.
A month ago work began with leveling the land where the house will be located. It was done with the owner, the engineer, the master builder and the masons. Once the perimeters were set, they proceeded with excavating the foundation and at the same time constructing the infiltration well that goes in the back of the house, six meters away from the house, they create the footing, fill in the concrete and begin to put up the walls.
The challenges continue for the Roncalli Association. For the rest of the year, they have planned to construct at least nineteen more houses, with the objective of giving everyone a chance. “ The possibilities are numerous. People can come in and talk—investing in a home is one of the most important decisions for a family. They can find options here, we have made this commitment, they can count on it, “indicates Novoa.
This is a translation of an article written by our partners at the Institute of John XXIII about our collaborative housing program in Nicaragua.